For those of you who missed it in person, here is the transcript of cult film historian Darrell Buxton’s introduction to the new smash hit horror film It.
Hello and welcome to Fright Club – and tonight’s screening of IT, which I think takes the record as the shortest film title we’ve screened. You’re in for two and a quarter hours of prime horror movie, though, and this is only part one.
You may have read stories earlier this month that a 41 year old woman died while watching IT at the Vue Cinema in Reading. This was reported by a website called The Surrey Telegraph, who claimed that:
“The cinema-goer attended the screening with friends and had complained of chest pains and difficulty breathing during one the film’s climax scenes. According to witnesses, the woman let out a large scream and then collapsed in her seat. The woman’s friends called 999 but by the time the ambulance arrived the woman was unresponsive and died at the scene.”
Well you’ll be relieved to hear that this seems to be an example of fake news – there’s been no confirmation of any such incident and no record of ambulance crews being called out to a cinema in that area. That’s not to suggest that you won’t find plenty to scare you in IT, however – and we’ve got the emergency services just a touch of a button away if required tonight.
Our ‘Fright Club’ shows over the summer have turned into a kind of unplanned Stephen King love-fest. In June we showed you King’s comic book collaboration with George A. Romero from 1982, CREEPSHOW; and following the sad news about Mr. Romero’s death soon afterwards, we paid tribute in August with his film THE DARK HALF – based on a Stephen King novel. So, here we are again.
Movies based on King’s work have had a variable time both critically and at the box office over the decades, but THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION remains one of the most popular films in the world, and even the lower end of the market attracts attention – we screened King’s universally-slated MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE here a while back and, hey, it wasn’t half as bad as you might remember. And now it looks as if Hollywood is set to discover Mr. King all over again – the box office figures for IT’s first weekend on release in the States went through the roof, so expect more creepy clown imitators and hopefully more Stephen King adaptations soon.
So, why all the fuss? Well the chunky 1986 novel was a best-seller, and was classic King – playing his demographic very cleverly by having kids as the heroes in the first half and depicting the gang as grown-ups in the second portion. The concept of an ultimate force of evil manifesting itself as a circus clown played on the comparatively modern anxiety about those red-nosed, powder-faced, grimacing figures – supposedly humorous, but considered harbingers of hatred and horror by many. And the idea that ‘It’ could conjure up each person’s worst fear and use it against them makes it personal. This is King pulling all the right strings and puppeteering his readership expertly.
If you suffer from coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, well a) you’re in the wrong place tonight, and b) you’ll be well aware of Pennywise, the central figure of fear in IT. In King’s book Pennywise appears in clown garb, but he or It can transform into anything that scares you – turning himself into Jaws, the Creature From The Black Lagoon, Frankenstein’s Monster, a werewolf, Dracula, the Mummy, and many more shuddersome icons within the novel’s chapters. If you were here for SHIN GODZILLA earlier this month, you’re probably aware that It also imitates the classic Japanese giant flying monster Rodan at one point. The movie pares all this down, relying simply on the clown imagery, though there are a few eerie apparitions to vary the palette and mix things up a bit. ‘It’ may be all-powerful, but it seems that even Pennywise struggles when it comes to acquiring character image rights from the major film studios…
If you’re as old as I am you may recall that IT has been filmed previously – a two-part adaptation was done for television in 1990, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace of HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH fame and starring Britain’s own Tim Curry as a memorable Pennywise. I think this new movie improves on the earlier screen version – it allows more time for the story to develop, and you might be surprised at the long stretches here where horror takes a back-seat and the friendship of the juvenile lead characters becomes the focus of attention. The movie, or at least this first half of it, is in the grand tradition of pitting kids against evil forces – we screened the 80s cult classic THE MONSTER SQUAD here a few years ago, and of course last year’s surprise TV hit STRANGER THINGS took the same template. If you liked the gang in STRANGER THINGS, or the ambience of films such as SUPER 8, you’ll find the Spielberg-esque bunch of brats here to be cut from the same mould. There’s a genuine 80s vibe to it all – the kids in the book were active in the late 1950s but the movie pushes everything forward thirty years or so, making it all more relevant to modern audiences. Young Sophia Lillis resembles the queen of John Hughes flicks, Molly Ringwald, so closely that it even gets mentioned during the film’s dialogue!
Bill Skarsgard, son of the great Stellan Skarsgard, snared the role of Pennywise here, and really makes it his own – if you hate clowns you’ll find this one particularly disturbing. He makes the most of the creepy make-up and is especially convincing in putting over the suggestion that Pennywise or It is an unstoppable supernatural evil that just happens to choose to dress in big-buttoned silks, a frilly ruff, and a big red nose.
Ok, step right up – it’s time for the circus to begin.
It’s a busy month in October for Fright Fans, check out the burnt offerings we have for you.